Eskom wants to drastically cut the number of skilled white engineers and managers to ensure that it meets its affirmative action targets.
This is according to a Rapport article which states that the company wants to reduce its qualified white workforce by 1,308 over the next year.
The skilled white employees which are targeted include engineers, tradespeople, academically qualified staff, and middle management.
These plans come as the company is under pressure from the Department of Labour to reduce the number of white employees to reflect the country’s demographics.
Ongoing process to cut white staff
In March 2015, Eskom shared its plans to decrease the number of skilled white employees by 3,389 to meet its affirmative action targets.
According to reports at the time, Eskom had to cut the number of white engineers and managers by 1,081, and decrease the number of white tradespeople by 2,179.
These white staff cuts were needed to comply with South Africa’s strict provisions of the Equity Act.
According to the reports the Department of Labour was insistent that Eskom must make changes to ensure its employee demographics reflect South Africa’s “national and regional demography”.
Skills shortage and Affirmative Action
In November 2014 trade union Solidarity said that it warned Eskom for years about the grave consequences of its serious skills shortage.
However, these warnings fell on deaf ears.
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) agreed with Solidarity, saying that the manner in which Eskom applied affirmative action was hurting service delivery.
“Let’s be honest, a lot of the people who work at Eskom do not have the skills required of them,” a Numsa spokesperson said at the time.
Gordhan trying to attract skills to Eskom
The latest plans to cut experienced white staff at Eskom come at a time when the company is trying to attract the exact talent it is getting rid of.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan recently admitted that good people have been forced out of the company because of a toxic and uncertain environment.
He explained that they are now trying to track down and recruit former Eskom staff who are working in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.
Gordhan said the loss of senior skills at Eskom is not a small matter, especially when it comes to engineering staff.
It is therefore surprising that Eskom is now looking to cut even more of these staff members – based purely on race.
Solidarity head Dirk Hermann has urged Gordhan to suspend its affirmative action plan at Eskom for five years to ensure that critical skills are retained at the embattled company.
The union has also launched a project to recruit experienced and skilled engineers and technicians to help alleviate the crisis at Eskom.
According to Solidarity, the best investment that can be made in Eskom right now is an investment in top skills, even if it is only for the interim to ease Eskom out of its crisis.